CLARK, Pampanga—Two leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations—Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi—arrived here Saturday for the Nov. 12 to 14 Asean Summit and Related Summits.
Other heads of state and government expected to attend and scheduled to arrive Sunday are: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam; President Joko Widodo of Indonesia; Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos;
Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia; Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong of Singapore; Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand; and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam.
Aside from US President Donald Trump, dialogue partners who will attend the Asean Summit are: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada; Premiere Li Keqiang of the People’s Republic of China;
President of the European Council Donald Tusk of the European Union; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan; Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand; Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia: President Moon Jae-in of South Korea; and Secretary General Antonio Guterres of the United Nations.
In Manila, security authorities said they did not see any imminent threat to the safety of heads of state and government and other foreign dignitaries attending summit.
But they urged Filipinos to be extra watchful on suspicious individuals with wicked motives to disrupt and sow violence during the international event.
On the eve of the opening of the Summit, the Asean Security Task Force said it had not detected any looming threat from terror groups and criminal syndicates for potential attacks, but had mapped out response mechanism to any possible shooting incidents during the two-day summit.
The task force, composed of members of the Presidential Security Group, the AFP, the PNP, Philippine Coast Guard, has deployed elite units in key areas of the summit venue to safeguard the delegates from any potential harm.
“We need to be able to respond to threats of active shooting within the first two minutes and contain the incident right away so it will not spread and cause more trouble,” said Chief Supt. William Macavinta, leader of the Red Team, during a simulation exercise on responding to an active shooting incident.
“Shooting incidents like those that happened in Las Vegas, San Francisco in California, and Resorts World are classic examples of active shooting incidents which could happen anywhere, even during the summit. This is why we are doing all these exercises to test our skills and alertness so that we will be ready just in case a similar incident happens here,” Macavinta added.
Hun Sen was welcomed by Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The welcoming party also included former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Hun Sen was last in the Philippines in April for the Asean Leaders’ Summit. President Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to Cambodia in December 2016 was considered the first stand alone bilateral visit of a Philippine president in two decades. With Francisco Tuyay, Joel Zurbano, and John Paolo Bencito
Hun Sen and Duterte are alike in terms of rejecting Western interference in internal affairs. Another common denominator between the Philippines and Cambodia is China.
Cambodia is a close Chinese ally, while Duterte has taken a pivot to China in terms of his foreign policy.
And like Duterte, Hun Sen has waged his own war on drugs in Cambodia, sending arrests soaring in his country.
Hun Sen has promised he won’t allow killings in his campaign, according to a Reuters report.
Suu Kyi, who arrived next, was also welcomed by Lorenzana and Arroyo.
Suu Kyi was fresh from a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, where the two discussed the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, has come under fire for alleged inaction on the persecution of Rohingya in her country.
The United Nations accused the Burmese army of ethnic cleansing, and Suu Kyi is condemned for not intervening.
Experts say Suu Kyi has a tough balancing act to do given that she has a delicate relationship with the military there.
Meanwhile, a senior Cabinet official of President Duterte said long-awaited free trade and investment agreements are set to be signed today in Da Nang between the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Hong Kong, to strengthen trade ties with the port city responsible for most of the China-related trade.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, in a text message, said the agreements were expected to facilitate “stronger trade and investments flow” to Hong Kong, which acts as “gateway to China market.”
On Friday, Duterte had a pull-aside meeting with Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit meetings here.
Speaking to reporters, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the two leaders generally spoke about the welfare of overseas Filipino workers living in the port city.
Duterte also greeted Lam for Hong Kong’s 20th anniversary as a special administrative region.
In 2010, Asean and China concluded a free trade agreement (FTA) which excludes Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region and a separate Customs jurisdiction.
China is, by far, the largest external trading partner of the Asean bloc, representing more than 15 percent of total trade with Asean.
Hong Kong is a member, in its own right, of the World Trade Organization, and as it does with tax treaties, it negotiates and executes international agreements, in its own right, as a separate jurisdiction for tax and Customs purposes, among other areas.
Asean is Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner, and part of its top foreign investment destinations.
In related developments:
• The Metro Manila Development Authority announced on Saturday the number coding scheme would still be enforced from Nov. 13 to 15 despite the suspension of classes and work in government offices in the National Capital Region.
MMDA supervising officer for operations Edison Nebrija said the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP), commonly known as the “number-coding,” would remain in effect in the metropolis to ensure the smooth flow of traffic on major thoroughfares during the country’s hosting of the Summit.
The MMDA will implement a modified stop-and-go traffic schemes along Asean routes because vehicles of world leaders, delegates and their convoy will be prioritized.
A full stop of traffic will be also observed five minutes before a convoy passes through, but the volume of traffic will determine the duration of the stop-and-go scheme on each intersection.
The agency said it was necessary to assure efficient mobility of the delegates within the thoroughfares of the metropolis.
“We really need to minimize the number of vehicles on those dates to make traffic more manageable and mitigate the effects of stop and go to those who have important engagements on those dates,” said Nebrija.
While there is a number coding scheme for both public and private and motorists, the MMDA is suspending the truck ban in Metro Manila from Nov. 11 to 15 to ensure the timely delivery of goods during the Asean summit.
Last Nov. 6, members of the Metro Manila Council, the MMDA’s governing board and policy-making body composed of mayors and other local government officials in the NCR, approved and issued a resolution lifting the truck ban on those dates.
The resolution, which was also signed by MMDA chairman Danilo Lim, said there was an urgent need for Metro Manila mayors to suspend the implementation of their respective truck ban ordinances to decongest the ports of Manila and on “account of the Asean summit 2017.”
The government has declared Nov. 13, 14, and 15 as special non-working days in NCR, Pampanga and Bulacan because those areas will be directly affected by the activities.
The MMC, on the other hand, declared that classes in all levels both in public and private schools be suspended on Nov. 16 and 17.
Meanwhile, intelligence agents arrested Friday a suspected Abu Sayyaf bomber along with his two cohorts at a Muslim enclave in Culiat, Quezon City. The three bandits yielded 2 cal.45 pistol, 2 M203 rifle grenades and a 9mm pistols, ammunitions and 6 cellular phones.
Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar, director of the Quezon City Police District, identified the suspects as Abdulgaffar Jikiri, alias Abu Bakas Jikiri, 19, Sadam Jhofar, 24, and Alim Sabtalin, 19, all residents of Salaam Compound, Barangay Culiat.
Eleazar said the suspects were inquested at the Quezon City Prosecutor’s office and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
At least 60,000 government personnel from the military and police and other law enforcement agencies have been mobilized in Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Tagaytay City, Bulacan and in Metro Manila, particularly at undisclosed temporary residences of foreign heads of state and government to ensure their safety. With Francisco Tuyay, Joel Zurbano, and John Paolo Bencito
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